Tag: Family business

Bigane Paving connects the Chicago region

Since 1985, Anne Bigane Wilson has led Bigane Paving, a fourth generation-owned asphalt company, turning it into a major asset in the Chicago region.

Founded in 1907 by John Bigane, the business initially started as a retail coal and oil supplier. In the late 1950’s, the company added asphalt to balance out the seasonal nature of fuel delivery; over time, the demand for asphalt grew and became the company’s primary product offering.

Today, Bigane Paving serves the Chicago region through its high-quality work on infrastructure improvements, streetscapes, and street and parking lot resurfacing and replacement projects.

The company’s central location (935 W. Chestnut Street) just west of Goose Island among similar land uses provides it with safe and easy access to the city and suburbs. It’s a great example of a thriving industrial company whose future North Branch Works is working hard to protect through our advocacy and by monitoring zoning changes.

In addition to providing valuable services, the company employs approximately twenty people in permanent high-quality jobs and its seasonal staff can reach close to 100 at its peak.

Most of the firm’s business comes from winning city and state project contracts. Remarkably, the company has paved 1,500 miles of streets.

Some of Bigane Paving’s high-profile projects include paving the 606/Bloomingdale Trail as well as bike lanes in the City of Chicago’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan and resurfacing the North Avenue Bridge

In 2018, Bigane Paving won the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Contractor of the Year Award for resurfacing North and Southbound Lake Shore Drive between Grand Avenue and Monroe Drive.

Although most of its work comes from public contracts, the business also excels in working with the private sector, having completed successful projects with many religious and scholastic institutions.

And much of the firm’s success is due to the innovation of its leader, Anne Bigane Wilson. A major success during her tenure was the purchase of Ogden Avenue Materials, a manufacturing operation, that allowed the company to expand and serve the entire Chicago region.

Within the industry, Anne is well-known for her ability to work well with the many diverse stakeholders who play important roles in construction projects. Her customers praise her for her detailed approach that consistently delivers projects on time and budget.

During Women’s History Month, North Branch Works is celebrating our women-owned business members. We’re honored to recognize Anne Bigane Wilson for the many contributions she’s made to Bigane Paving, North Branch Works, and Chicagoland.

If you’d like to connect with Bigane Paving, please reach out to info@biganepaving.com

Image credits: Bigane Paving

Celebrating Women’s History Month with KOVAL Distillery

Following successful academic careers, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart and her husband, Dr. Robert Birnecker, decided to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian family to the U.S., taking them on a journey that resulted in the founding of KOVAL Distillery in 2008.

Today, KOVAL Distillery produces organic whiskey, liquors, and specialty spirits from scratch. The company partners with local organic farmers who grow and send grains to KOVAL which manufactures its products on-site in Ravenswood (4241 N. Ravenswood Avenue). KOVAL also recently moved its store within the distillery at this location.

It’s a great example of how manufacturing has shifted from large companies to smaller neighborhood artisanal businesses that provide high-quality jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

KOVAL only uses the “heart cut” of the distillate, making its products stand out due to their clean taste; they’re also organic and kosher. For example, the company uses 100% Midwestern grown organic rye to make its rye whiskey whereas other brands only use the minimum 51% rye blend.

Take a look inside KOVAL by watching this video, From Grain to Bottle.

Some of the places where you can find KOVAL products include: Whole Foods, Target, Binny’s, Beer Temple, Cellar Door Provisions, and many neighborhood liquor stores.

At the time of its founding, KOVAL Distillery faced many challenges including high start-up costs for equipment such as copper stills and 30-gallon drums, securing affordable real estate that could accommodate its needs, and outdated laws governing distilleries that prevented the business from setting up a tasting room, selling retail on-site, and hosting tours.

Fortunately, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart (pictured above right) has always been a strong policy advocate. Shortly after launching KOVAL, she organized meetings with her alderman and Members of the Illinois General Assembly, resulting in the creation of a Craft Distiller’s license in the State of Illinois. Her persistent advocacy elevated the craft distilling industry in Illinois and made it possible for distilleries to compete fairly with wineries and breweries.

Another way that KOVAL overcame high startup costs was by responding to strong community interest in distilling.  After word spread about the company starting, KOVAL received numerous calls from people wanting to know more about the company, the type of equipment that distilling requires, and general tips for distilling.

Because KOVAL was already the manufacturers’ representative of equipment firms in Germany and other parts of Europe, the company decided to offer workshops and consulting services to the public. Remarkably, KOVAL has helped start 200 distilleries in Canada and the U.S. and educated over 3500 people about spirits.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help KOVAL by purchasing its products, which are available online, and suggesting that venues carry them if they don’t already.

And please visit KOVAL’s bar and patio when it opens after the pandemic winds down. Stay tuned for an opening announcement.

We’re proud to count KOVAL Distillery as a member and especially grateful to Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart for her service on North Branch Works’ Board of Directors.

To connect with KOVAL Distillery, please reach out to: info@koval-distillery.com.

Image credits: KOVAL Distillery

Join Wendella Boats for tours & events

Update: February 23, 2021:  Wendella Boats’ 2021 season will start between March 12-19 depending upon conditions in the Chicago River. For any business, property owner, or organization looking to host a private event aboard a Wendella vessel, please contact: aws@wendellaboats.com

Because of COVID-19, the long-term viability of Chicago’s small businesses in the events and entertainment field like Wendella Boats depends upon the support of local residents and businesses.

A family-owned, multi-generational small business, Wendella Boats offers breath-taking architecture boat tours, hosts corporate events, and operates the popular water taxis which safely transport people to multiple destinations along the Chicago River.

Founded in 1935 by a Swedish immigrant who bravely purchased the company’s first boat during the Great Depression, Wendella Boats played a big role in helping Chicago and the country through major events such as CTA worker strikes, World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and 9-11.

Prior to the pandemic, Wendella Boats employed over three-hundred people and kept them in jobs year-round by having them repair boats during the winter months.

And these are good jobs that pay competitive wages without requiring much education or experience beyond high school.  As an employee benefit and workforce development strategy, the company provides scholarships to help employees obtain their Coast Guard credentials.

Now, because revenues have fallen 90%, the company has been forced to reduce its workforce to one-hundred and furlough 60% of its staff. Wendella Boats also recently made the difficult decision to suspend water taxi service. Just last year, water taxis transported 415,000 people to and from various riverfront destinations.

With tourism and hotel occupancy in the central business district down sharply, the company is counting on Chicago residents and local companies to take architecture tours and book events.

The good news is Wendella Boats provides the safest and socially-distant entertainment available. It’s a great way to see Chicago’s awe-inspiring architecture up close, learn more about the city, and relax and unwind.

The company’s ninety-five-foot steel tour boats feature an open air upper deck (pictured above) and plenty of space to comfortably social distance. And you can rest assured knowing the company follows all the COVID-19 protocols, including cleaning the boats vigorously after each trip, taking temperatures of its staff, requiring face masks, and enforcing social distancing.

Because of these measures, only one-hundred people are allowed on the boat per outing. And while following these guidelines is a must for public safety, it also means the company is down one-third of its revenue even if it sells out the boat.

Despite these challenging times, Wendella Boats continues to show its incredible commitment to the city. A portion of the proceeds from its bar service is donated every week to local nonprofits.

North Branch Works is proud to count Wendella Boats among our members and grateful it can safely host tours. We highly recommend hopping on an architecture boat tour, booking an event, and referring family, friends, and colleagues.

Any support you can provide is greatly appreciated. You can purchase tickets for an architecture tour by stopping by Wendella’s dock (see below) at 400 N. Michigan or going here.

Four Star Family Cyclery improves lives during COVID-19

After overcoming a fear of cycling, Elsbeth Cool (pictured above) purchased her first cargo bike as an adult, taking a leap that ultimately inspired her to launch a small business selling cargo bikes.

Now, as the owner of Four Star Family Cyclery, she gets to help customers and their families experience the many benefits of choosing to bike for everyday transportation.

A woman-owned, family business in Avondale, Four Star Family Cyclery specializes in selling cargo, family, and electric-assist bikes. And you can also stop in to rent a bike and for bike accessories, including helmets, locks, and general repairs like having a flat fixed.

And if you haven’t heard of cargo bikes, they are bikes that have been adapted so they can carry heavy and bulky loads, including passengers like children. They vary by design and come in two, three, or four-wheel forms and with or without electric assistance.

Four Star Family Cyclery opened its doors in 2016, operating in a 700 sq. foot space on Western Avenue. Because few bike shops in Chicago would carry cargo bikes at the time, Elsbeth courageously started on a small scale.

Once the business succeeded, it needed a larger space. Elsbeth desired a location in a family-friendly neighborhood with walkable streets. As it happened, Four Star Family Cyclery moved to its current location, (3101 W. Diversey Ave. see below), which is in front of the CTA’s #76 Diversey Bus stop at Albany St., right before the onset of COVID-19.

Although the pandemic created uncertainty before peak bicycling season in Chicago, the good news is the company has been extremely busy keeping up with strong demand. And by encouraging a healthy, sustainable and socially-distant way of getting around, the business is making a major contribution to the city as the local economy recovers.

Four Star Family Cyclery is committed to providing customers with high-quality, individualized attention. That’s the primary reason new customers are asked to sign up for hourly appointments at no cost, which you can do here.

If you sign up for an appointment, you’ll receive an hour to talk about bikes with Elsbeth as well as the opportunity to do test rides on scenic Logan Boulevard.

There’s nothing Elsbeth and her team enjoy more than helping people who haven’t biked in years gain the confidence necessary to become year-round cyclists. It’s common for the team to hear customers love their cargo bikes so much they ride them frequently and often sell their cars.

And Four Star Family Cyclery is exactly the type of sustainable business that North Branch Works is working hard to support through our advocacy for policies that create a business-friendly climate and by connecting local businesses to each other for mutually beneficial economic development.

If you’d like to explore the variety of cargo bikes, need bike accessories, or have questions about biking, please contact Elsbeth at elsbeth@fourstarfamilycyclery.com, 224-358-5455.

Image credits: Four Star Family Cyclery

Support Calihan Catering

Not all business models are adaptable during a pandemic.

And that’s especially true for small businesses like Calihan Catering whose model depends upon large events bringing together between two and five thousand people.

A family-owned, multi-generational small business, Calihan Catering opened in 1985 when founder John Calihan launched the company. And for over twenty years, the firm has been located on Goose Island, offering easy access to the central business district and the north side.

The company’s facility features an eight thousand sq. foot state-of-the-art kitchen and a twenty thousand sq. foot breathtaking event space, Gallery 1028 (pictured below).

As the firm grew over the years, it developed a specialty in carrying out large events successfully. Some of Calihan’s high profile clients include the N.F.L. Draft, Gourmet Chicago, Butterfly Ball, Field Museum, Civic Opera House, and recently the James Beard Awards–the preeminent awards for the restaurant and food industry.

Along with providing high-quality food and entertainment, Calihan Catering employed 176 people in good jobs with family-sustaining wages. Sadly, because of the pandemic, the company has been forced to furlough many of its employees and operate at 15% capacity.

Despite these challenges, the Calihan family has prioritized public health during these uncertain times and will not promote large gatherings until they can be held safely.

And the family has also decided not to compete with local restaurants who are already stretched-thin trying to make ends meet through delivery and pickup services.

Because many weddings and large events have been postponed indefinitely, it’s uncertain if business will pick up in 2021. And while you might hear about city, state, and federal governments offering financial assistance to small businesses, the inability to plan for 2021 remains a major barrier.

Chicago remains a vibrant city in large part because we have a diverse range of neighborhood businesses offering specialized products and experiences.

And that’s why North Branch Works is deeply committed to supporting members like Calihan and creating an environment where businesses can thrive and offer good jobs with family-sustaining wages.

In these challenging times, we urge our members to support each other by coming together as a community and keeping business local. We encourage you to explore business-to-business opportunities, consider formal partnerships, or ask for referrals within our network–there’s really no limit to the ways we can partner together.

And if you’d like to connect with fellow members, North Branch Works would love to help you. With questions, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

For high-quality catering and entertainment services, please contact Nash Calihan and his team at 312-587-3553 and/or visit: calihancatering.com/inquire-1.

Image credits: Calihan Catering

Shop4Ties succeeds during COVID-19

Running a small business comes with many challenges in the best of times; leading one successfully through a pandemic requires creativity, leadership, and innovation.

And that’s exactly what is happening at Shop4Ties, a woman and family-owned small business in Logan Square that designs, manufactures, and sells ties, scarves, formal wear, face masks and more.

Shop4Ties opened its doors in 1982 when founder Arnie Kapp launched the business in his family’s home just outside of Chicago.

Over the course of thirty-seven years, Shop4Ties has grown from serving hundreds of customers each year to over tens of thousands and built a loyal customer base that includes universities, schools (see below), nonprofits, government agencies, companies and individuals.

Despite this success, the onset of COVID-19 caused a major drop in sales and interrupted the company’s supply chain. For over twenty years, Shop4Ties has partnered with a small manufacturer in Shengzhou, China, which had to abruptly stop production.

Along with the travel ban to and from China, Shop4Ties faced unprecedented challenges in being able to deliver its high-quality custom products to customers.

Fortunately, thanks to the dedicated leadership of CEO Becky Galvez and CFO Rhonda Kapp the company quickly pivoted to selling face masks, recognizing the demand for high quality protective wear.

And this nimble transition has positioned the company for a successful year and allowed it to bring back all nine of its employees in good jobs and support the local economy as the city begins to reopen and recover.

Throughout these challenging times, Shop4Ties has shown its incredible commitment to Chicago. Even with sales down 40% in March, Shop4Ties launched a campaign, Feeding the Frontlines, which to date has raised over $13k from sales of Chicago-themed products—100% of which the company donated to local restaurants who then provided over 900 meals to frontline workers.

And recently Shop4Ties kicked-off the Masks for Change Art Contest, which is open to all children from kindergarten through eighth grade who are invited to design a mask that reflects what anti-racism means to them. Winners will receive 250 custom masks to share with classmates and faculty.

If you and/or your organization have a need for face masks or other custom and brand products, we highly recommend contacting Shop4Ties at 800-998-8437 and www.shop4ties.com.

North Branch Works is a proud neighbor of Shop4Ties in the Green Exchange. And we’re working hard to create a climate that will support Shop4Ties and our members, resulting in strong businesses that can expand, provide family-sustaining jobs, and strengthen communities.

Image credits: Shop4Ties

 

Support Gold Coast Auto Body

If you need a high-quality auto body repair and want to support a family-owned, small business, then you’ll want to take your vehicle to Gold Coast Auto Body located at 900 W. Division St. just west of the Chicago River.

Gold Coast Auto Body has been in operations since 1992 and will celebrate twenty years at its current location in August. The shop specializes in the impeccable repairs of major vehicle brands such as Honda, Acura, Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Volkswagen.

Known for providing honest advice, the co-owners, Dominic and Mario Martino, are committed to doing the highest quality work. Unlike other shops, they only use new auto parts to repair vehicles, ensuring the long-term safety of their customers.

They know the positive impact their work has on the lives of customers, the local economy, and broader Chicago region.

And the passion they have for their business is matched by their love of the city and its neighborhoods. Originally from Chicago, they’ve been longtime members of civic organizations like North Branch Works and the Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and LGBT Chambers of Commerce.

Recently, North Branch Works joined Dominic for a tour of the shop (pictured left Gold Coast Auto Body co-owner Dominic Martino and NBW staff Steve Simmons).

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gold Coast Auto Body regularly repaired fifty cars per week and employed around fifty people in jobs that paid family-sustaining wages.

Now more than ever, Gold Coast Auto Body needs work to continue providing high quality service to customers, good jobs to its workers, and support for the local economy as Chicago begins to recover.

Gold Coast Auto Body is currently open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and following all the COVID-19 safety precautions.

The referrals of family, friends and colleagues are greatly appreciated.

With questions and to schedule an appointment, please call 312-787-0333 and visit www.goldcoastautobody.com.